The Natural Gemstone of the United States
In the protective confines of my household, even a straightforward, five-minute walk to my music class requires strict accompaniment by a parent, much to my utter distaste. However, having been denizens of India for over thirty years, my parents and their motivations are understandable, and I respect their underlying rationale, regardless of how much I hold it in contempt. Nevertheless, I still dislike crossing the street with my fingers interlocked with my mothers’, or calling my father after a two minute jaunt, or periodically updating my family by hourly text messages or missed calls if I’m outside the sheltered enclosure of my residence. Yet, I abide by their rules because a small, surrendering part of my mind agrees with them, and appreciates my family’s concern for my well-being.
And so, for the ten years of my life spent in Bangalore- a crowded, metropolitan city of southern India, enveloped by the impenetrable cloak of pollution and unhindered development- I lived a life of absolute dependence, which I gradually grew to be accustomed to. I accepted my way of living- until I turned sixteen, and my family and I took a trip to Shenandoah National Park, Virginia.
A wooden cabin, in the midst of nature at its purest and most unfettered- akin to the versions of the woods and cottages one pictures in fairy tales. Simple ways of living, miles and miles away from the clamorous sounds of civilization, automobiles, and other symptoms of the technological advancements that plague humanity. Clear, refreshing, invigorating air. Green canopies of leaves shielding the ground from the sparkling rays of sunlight emanating from the golden orb hanging from the tapestry of the azure sky. Billows of eddying mist clouding our vision, accentuating the aura of enigma owned by the trees, the soil, the heavens. A sudden, newfound sense of independence blossoming in my soul, crashing down in implacable waves, sending sprays of anticipation relentlessly beating against my mind and heart.
As I trudged up and down the trails of Shenandoah, I was struck by the sense of familiarity my surroundings bestowed upon my spirits. Unlike in Bangalore, where everyone is a stranger, people here greeted each other as one does to an old friend. Contrary to my usual, reticent self, I found myself talking, asking people about their experiences, their countries of origin, and immensely surprising myself in the process. And after nights of thoughtful ruminating, I realized the reason behind my unexpected affability- nature. The untainted squalls, knolls of critters and quaint ambiance had given my soul the rare gifts of appreciation and gratitude. And much to my delight, my movements gradually became more autonomous- I was permitted to hike up paths in solitude, take short excursions to the restaurant just to bask in the warmth of a hot cup of tea, roam about idly… and it occurred to me that I wasn’t the only one who was changed by the sheer beauty of Shenandoah. Being an avid poet, I found tides of feelings, emotions and words lapping against my mind’s eye, subsequently eliciting a new found passion in what is most important to me. Rather than having to assiduously struggle for sources of inspiration, inspiration cascaded down as rain, instilling in me a powerful desire to pen down my experiences as I lived them- whether they were viewing a spider forming its web, the sight of rainbows of butterflies pirouetting with the breeze, light drizzles falling as tears, the exhilarating view from the peak of the highest hill… For the first time, I was free to be myself, free to imagine, free to dream as I had never done before. Away from the imprisoning banalities of populated cities and in the heart of nature at its proudest and most picturesque, I saw myself as an ambitious teenager with an innately independent spirit, with an urge to travel and to escape the old and enter the new. And if this park embodied the beauties of a fairy tale, who knew what other unacknowledged treasures the world boasts of?
All in all, it is fair to say that my stay at Shenandoah National Park was the most enlightening of all the trips I’ve ever been on. It imparted confidence to a person who had lived a life of dependence, gifted liberation to a young girl who had kept her wrath of emotions under the hood of inhibition, and also gave her a sense of identity- as a girl with an unappeasable fancy to explore, to discover, and to add to the magic of nature that the earth possesses.
About the Author:
Richa Gupta is a sixteen year old girl living in Bangalore, India, who has an avid interest in creative writing, poetry and travelling. She loves visiting new places and penning down her experiences in the form of creative non fiction and short stories. She plans to publish a book of her poems and short stories before long.
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